What’s Next: The Punch List

Reflections on finishing the third 1,000 things project #2:
The end of counting (for me anyway), but not the end of decluttering thoughtfully…

inhaler 3000sthg 316
(#3,000-something: inhaler, trashed)

Now that I’ve finished the third 1,000 things project, where am I now? What’s next?

1) My ultimate goal is in sight. I am still not to the point where everything I own has identifiable purpose or value, but that goal appears to be in sight. At this point, I’ve at least looked at just about everything I own. That is, while I haven’t looked at every single garden gadget or piano music book or kitchen utensil, I know where almost everything is now.  There are no surprises left as far as I can tell, not counting the occasional random object or two like the inhaler pictured above (#3,000-something; trashed) which I found the other day behind a radiator in the living room, where it apparently fell unnoticed some seven years ago. (I threw it away since it was well past its expiration date of July 2009).

It will take a lot more work to get to my ultimate goal, but I’ve been making a list of all the things that need to be done to get there — a punch list. The list is somewhat long — a few dozen items or so and counting — but it feels finite and doable, and a couple of items are already done. (More on this list below.) In the process, I will also apply what I’ve learned to go through the remaining things thoughtfully, quickly, and (even more) systematically.

2) I’m done counting, at least as far as this initiative is concerned.

Perhaps you’ll find it no surprise that I’ve gotten tired of doing so much counting. It’s a lot of effort, even for someone like me who clearly likes to keep track of such things (as this project has demonstrated all too well). More importantly, I’m not sure it’s necessary for me to do it anymore. One indication of this is that I forgot to take a picture of the tool cull. It would have made quite a picture — all the tools spread out and ready for sorting — but I think it means that I was ready to be done with counting.

The process has taken me to a new place – a place beyond counting. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is to me. One of the things I (re-)learned about myself, particularly as the result of culling, scanning, and getting rid of some of the documents I saved is how much I like to keep track of things. (More on that in a future post.)

There was a small part of me that wanted to continue counting to the (bitter) end, just so I can say how many things it took for me to reach that point. However, I don’t think the final ‘exact’ number would mean much to anyone else since everyone’s personal hoard and experience varies so much. And for that matter, the exact number is unimportant to me as well, as I don’t plan to ever have to be in the position to have to count my stuff again, although you never know — maybe I’ll end up sharing (& counting?) someone else’s stuff someday… 😉

At any rate, it’s official now — I’ve gotten rid of a few more things since I reached the 3,000 mark and haven’t kept track of them, so I’ve literally lost count of the exact number of things I’ve gotten rid of. Still, I’ll probably be able to do an approximation and have a rough number at the end (3,500? 4,000? more?), which should be good enough for my purposes.

3) The process of decluttering thoughtfully continues. It’s easier now because I’ve become practiced at it and because what remains at this point is mostly stuff that I really want to be thoughtful about.

For instance, there are many things I want to spend more time documenting, such as my road map and CoEvolution Quarterly/Whole Earth Review collections. I started going through these during the third 1,000 things project, but I did not finish dealing with them then. They hold a lot of personal stories and reminiscences that I’d like to (re)visit before getting rid of them, so I will go through each of these individually (which is more than 200 things in all), at least until I get tired of the process (or who knows, decide to keep some of them). There are a few other things like that — mementos, childhood toys — which will likely require individual attention as well. Although spending this much time on these things may sound contradictory to decluttering quickly and systematically, I think that the prospect of having my ultimate goal in reach will motivate me enough to get there even without the discipline or structure of keeping count.

“What’s next?” also raises two other important questions: When will I get there? And how will I know when I’ve arrived?  Answering the first one is simple if arbitrary: even though meeting deadlines doesn’t motivate me , I still find them useful. So let’s say — June 12th? That’s about 11 weeks from today; if I average about three tasks per week on my list, that will get me there, give or take a little time for upcoming events (vacations, graduation ceremonies, etc.).

4) The punch list.  Answering the second question is also arbitrary but less simple because, as I’ve come to realize, the value and purpose of the things I have changes over time. Some things that seem important to have now may not be important later. The physical, mental and emotional space I’ve created, and continue to create, by getting rid of things changes how I view my remaining possessions.  In this sense, my ultimate goal of being able to identify the purpose or value of everything I own is unattainable, or at least it’s not a stable, unchanging point. I’ll have to define for myself what it means to be satisfied with where I arrive. So for now, I’ll define it to mean “getting rid of everything on my list,” and I’ll call it a punch list to remind myself that the process has a certain finality to it: when the punch list is done, the project is done. Period. (At least until the next project starts, that is… ;-))

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